Category Archives: Relationships

Refocusing the Family, III

D.  Prepared for life:

This world is not going away soon … maybe.   Therefore, Christians will always live in a world that has gone morally wrong. And this world is very immoral (See Js 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15). In order to prepare our children for the world, we must not forget the fact that someone will be their teacher in reference to moral values. Parents have a choice as to who will teach them and what they will be taught. Because the world is a strong teacher, Christian parents must be stronger than this world. In order that our children “shine as lights in the world” (Ph 2:15), parents must remember that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). Therefore, parents must teach their children the following strong mandate from the Holy Spirit: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If any loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15).

Parents are often challenged with the competition of their local public schools. When parents send their children to public schools that are void of the word of God, they are sending them into an environment of humanism, and in this day, a science of men that is void of the existence of God. In their book, The Evolution Conspiracy, Caryl Matrisciana and Roger Oakland wrote,

“… traditionally the school room has been an open forum of learning. Today it has become a pulpit for the aggressive conversion of impressionable minds. It is the battlefield where war is being waged against the Judeo-Christian God, His principles, His morality, and the Bible” (Sept., 1991, see Amazon Kindle).

In his book, Humanism: A New Religion, Dr. Charles F. Potter wrote,

“Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can a theistic Sunday School’s meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of the five day program of humanistic teaching?”   (See Amazon.com.)

Since almost all young people come out of families that are spiritually dysfunctional, we are sending spiritually dysfunctional youth into a lion’s den of secular humanism where spiritually is deemed mythological. A Sunday morning religion that offers only a brief spiritual encounter for a couple hours once a week has no chance of winning the war against five days a week in an environment of humanistic teaching. The only chance parents have in saving their children is in daily study of the word of God in their homes.

We now live in a religious world where many church leaders know little of the Bible. We are as Israel who grew ignorant of the word of God. They were led by spiritual people, but leaders who knew little of the word of God (Hs 4:6). It was not that Israel became irreligious. The Israelites maintained their religiosity, but refocused on gods they created after their own imagination and religious behavior that satisfied the emotional hysteria of idol worship. Today, we are as them. When parents and their children show up at a “church house of Bible ignorance,” it is rare that they will hear preaching and teaching from the word of God.   They cannot because those who are leading the religious clan have themselves long forsaken a love and study of the Bible.

These are the times of biblical ignorance in a multitude of misguided religions. We have long forsaken the time when church leaders used good sense from the Good Book in order to lead the people to Him only who is good.

[Next lecture: September 10]

Refocusing the Family, II

B.  Restructuring the factory:

We often hear that an automobile company must recall several thousand of their vehicles, if not millions that they produced at their factory. The reason for the recall is to correct a dysfunctional part in the manufactured product. The dysfunctional vehicles often resulted in accidents, some of which may have ended in the death of the vehicle occupants. The factory, therefore, must be remolded to correct the dysfunction in the products.

The same is true in society. If we wake up one day and discover tragedy in society, we must first focus on that which produces the products for society. It is the home that produces citizens for our society, and when the home is producing dysfunctional citizens, then society must take another look at the home and do some remolding.   Unfortunately, there is no recall of those children who have been released into society. They must live with the dysfunction of their parent’s home.   However, this does not mean that their own homes must continue the dysfunctions of the home from which they came.   A new home can always begin a new heritage of the family. The Lord Jesus can do wonders in molding a great family.

When parents bring their children to Jesus, they have brought them to One who can mold them for life and direct them to the target of eternal glory. Jesus once rebuked His own disciples when they rebuked some parents who were bringing their little children “to Him so that He might put His hands on them and pray” (Mt 18:19). Jesus had just reminded his disciples about the preciousness of little children:

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Mt 18:6).

It would be good for parents to research this statement, for it may be the parents who are hindering their children from coming to Jesus. Jesus’ invitation to children is explicitly clear. Parents, grandparents and relatives must work as a unified force to bring the children to Jesus. Bringing a child to Jesus, while the child is in the home, is not a guarantee that the child will remain faithful to Jesus when he leaves the home. The parents who have worked the best they could to keep their children close to Jesus in the home, are not responsible for any wayward child after the child has left the home. Leaving the home means that children are responsible to God for their own behavior. There is no parental responsibility that guarantees the faithfulness of children once they are on their own. When the Bible speaks of each one giving account of himself before God in judgment, it does not mean that the parents will give account for the sins of wayward children (See 2 Co 5:10).

C.  Writing road maps:

We know the well-known exhortation of Solomon: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Pv 22:6). It may be that a well-trained child takes a misguided walk in the wilderness, but when he is old he will remember the values that were implanted in his behavior when he was a child. The problem is when parents do not implant a spiritual road map in the minds of their children. If the young person wanders off in the wilderness of this world, it is difficult for him to find a spiritual road map back to God if the parents did not implant in his mind spiritual values.

The first responsibility of parents is to give their children a spiritual road map that will bring them back to God if they wander off the straight and narrow way. Parents who have not built into their parenting a spiritual road map for their children are spiritually endangering their children when they leave the home. If a spiritual road map is not instilled in the moral fiber of their children, they are constructing an arrow that will fly from the home in the wrong direction. The child, when grown, will find it difficult to find his or her way to God when he or she has no spiritual inclinations to seek God.

Parents must realize that respect for God and His word must be instilled in the minds of children when they are young. This is the only guarantee against developing a society where every imagination of man is only evil continually (Gn 6:5).   If the word of God is not instilled in the minds of young people in the home, then when they leave the home the world will instill in their hearts its own set of values.

What destroyed Israel is the same that destroys societies today. God judged Israel, and thus condemned her to captivity for one reason: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” of My word (Hs 4:6). As parents, we encourage, if not demand, that our children learn a host of secular books in school in order that they graduate and be successful in life. However, we neglect to demand that they know the Book of Life in order to graduate into eternal life. When a biology book is worn with use, but a Bible lies in dust, then we can be assured that a young person is bound to develop a wrong arrangement of priorities in his or her life.

[Next lecture: September 9]

 

 

Refocusing the Family, I

 

Behold, children are

a heritage of the Lord,

and the fruit of the womb

is His reward.

As arrows are

in the hand of a mighty man,

so are the children of one’s youth.

(Ps 127:3,4)

We have experienced in life more than we desire to remember concerning the following scenario that was written in a long-forgotten church bulletin:

A telephone rings in the middle of the night. The caller weeps uncontrollably.   A teenager is … dead. Hearts are broken; there are no words that bring comfort; comfort flees into the night; all advice is not relevant. A funeral happens; final “good-byes” are whispered in the ear of broken parents; classmates mourn; friends grieve. God is blamed; and everyone cries out, “WHY?”

Some churches lose their young people to the wilderness of sin at such a rate that they fabricate any type of appeal to keep them drawn to something that somewhat reflects the spiritual side of man.   Regardless of all the efforts to “keep our children,” many children simply wander off into the wilderness.   These wandering young people often look back and say, as our good childhood friend said to his mother, “I want to experience life.” And sometimes that experience ends in a shocking call in the middle of the night.

A.  Why do young people wander?

The psalmist wrote, “Behold, children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Ps 127:3). B. Linda Mayhue wrote,

“What a responsibility—to know that our children will build a life on what we teach and the love we show them.   No wonder parenting is a job that brings more joy and challenge than any other.”

Children are like arrows in the hand that we propel toward the target of life. The psalmist continued, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of one’s youth” (Ps 127:4). Children must be launched from the home toward the target of heaven.   In order to accomplish this feat in parenting, parents must have a clear vision of the target. It is more than speaking the words of heaven. It is living the example by which children can be a designed arrow for direct flight. The sure way for parents to direct their children toward heaven is to make sure that they are going in the same direction.

We repulse in horror when we read of child abuse.   But we must remember that the one who is guilty of abusing children was also the child of some parents who had no clear vision of heaven. The parent’s ungodliness was only perpetuated through their children who in turn abuse their grandchildren. Perpetrators of child abuse were created in a dysfunctional home. When we dig deep into the dysfunctional home of a child abuser, it is easy to see that the abuser was someone born out of a home of abuse.

[Next lecture: September 8]

 

 

The Sanctuary For Survival

 

And a brother will deliver up [a Christian] brother to death, and a father his [Christian] child. And the children will rise up against [Christian] parents and cause them to be put to death (Mt 10:21).

It is necessary to understand the context of Jesus’ above statement in order to understand why we have inserted the word “Christian” before those who would be delivered up. In the context, Jesus had just stated to His disciples, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt 10:16). These wolves will “deliver you up to councils and they will scourge you in their synagogues” (Mt 10:17). The Christians would “be brought before governors and kings for My sake (Mt 10:18). And then He forewarned them, “You will be hated by all men for My name’s sake” (Mt 10:22). Jesus was picturing a sociological environment in the days of the Roman Empire when the home would digress to the point that family loyalties would vanish.   It would digress to the point that unbelieving parents would deliver up their believing children, and unbelieving children would deliver up their Christian parents.

In his monumental six volumes entitled The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) concluded that there were seven major reasons why the Roman Empire came to its demise with the fall of Rome in A. D. 476. One of the seven reasons was the “devaluation of the home,” which “devaluation” Jesus foretold in Matthew 10.

According to statistics in America in 1870, 1 in 34 marriages ended in divorce. In 1900, 1 in 12 marriages ended in divorce. In 1930 it was 1 in 6 marriages, and by the 1970s it was 1 in 2.   But the good news is that since the 1980s divorce in the American society has declined, except among older people. Time Magazine reported that research “in 2014 found it [divorce] has doubled among people 50 and older in the past two decades; more men over 65 are divorced than widowed” (Time Magazine, June 13, 2016).

Many people think that marriage will work itself out automatically. But that does not seem to be the case. It takes a lot of hard work to make a marriage work and a home successful. As socio/economic conditions of today take both the husband and wife out of the home, it is increasingly difficult to bring both back home to sustain a healthy marriage relationship, and a family that nurtures children who are assets to a healthy society. Unfortunately, in many cases it is true what the aged preacher Marshal Keeble once wrote, “There is no such thing as juvenile delinquency. It’s parental. That’s the problem. The children are doing pretty good considering who’s raising them.”

The American, John Howard Payne, had lived in Paris, France for over nine years. He was extremely homesick for America. In 1822 he wrote the words,

… ‘mid pleasures and palaces

we may roam,

be it ever so humble,

there’s no place like home.

The home should be a place where the strife of the world is shut out, and love locked in. It should be a social environment where those who have been put down and bullied by the world can be lifted up to mountain peeks; where the small can be considered great. As someone once said, the home is “the father’s kingdom, the mother’s world, and a child’s paradise.” The home is a paradise where we have the opportunity to grumble the most, but are treated with respect, not criticism, for our opinions. It is a paradise where our stomachs are filled, and our hearts are comforted. It is truly as the preacher wrote, “The only place on earth where the faults and failings of humanity are hidden under the sweet mantle of charity.”

The biblical prescription for a successful home is clear. The husband (father) is the primary lover (Ep 5:24,28), the provider (1 Tm 5:8), the trainer (Pv 22:6; 29:15; Ep 6:4), and the spiritual and emotional leader (Pv 21:9; Ep 5:23,24; 1 Tm 3:4; Ti 2:5). No, it is not as someone said, “Home is the only place where a man can do as he pleases … when his wife is away.” Neither is it as the Ghanian proverb: The husband is the head, but the wife is the neck.

In the home, the wife (mother) is a lover (Ti 2:4), and a helper (Gn 2:18), and keeper (Ti 2:5). There are beautiful women about whom we hear. And there are career women and sophisticated women.   And then the modern reference is to be the liberated woman. But we hear little about godly women who are the keepers of homes. In the home, the husband/father may run the show, but the wife/mother, as the keeper of the home, should make sure that she is writing the script according to God’s rules. Successful homes produce successful societies.

In many societies today, street gangs are a sociological function of the youth. Gangs exist because homes have failed. Too often the gang has become the new home for those young people who come from dysfunctional homes, or no homes at all. It is often as someone said, “Kids are on streets today because they don’t want to stay at home by themselves.” When both parents are forced into the work place of the urban environment, then responsibility over children becomes second place. It is not surprising that when the children are nurtured by the environment of humanistic schools, the father and mother are both off to work and home late, that the home becomes only a place through which family members pass on their way to somewhere else.

Since God instituted the home for the procreation of the world, and the social environment to produce citizens for society, then we would naturally assume that He would lay down correct rules for successful family life. And He has.   We are only kidding ourselves to think that we can violate His rules for a successful home, and then not pay the price, both in our homes and in society. Any dysfunction in society can always be traced back to some failure in the home.

John R. Mott once reported on the family of the world renowned Andrew Murray, a South African. He reported that in the family of Murray there were eleven children who grew into adulthood. Five of the sons become preachers and four of the daughters became the wives of preachers. Ten grandsons became preachers and thirteen grandchildren became missionaries. There is power in the Christian home to preserve the world.

The beauty of a house is harmony.

The security of a house is loyalty.

The joy of a house is love.

The plenty of a house is in children.

The rule of a house is service.

The comfort of a house is God Himself.

(Frank Crane)

[Next Lecture: September 7]

 

 

 

Love As Strong As Death, Part 3

D.  “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be scorned”:

Remember the 1964 song of the Beatles that was entitled, Can’t Buy Me love? The song writer revealed nothing new. The Shulamite woman said to her devoted lover, Solomon, that her love was not for sale. She recognized that Solomon, because of his great wealth, might be tempted to put a price on her love for him.   If Solomon would have by chance tried to buy the love of the Shulamite, then his love for her would not be true.   Everyone would know that this “love” was based on that which was of this world. Solomon would be scorned for trying to buy the love of a woman, and the love itself would be insincere because it would have been purchase.   Bought love has little chance of success.

True love can never be bought. It must be worked for and earned. A woman who would allow her “heart” to be bought by a wealthy man has cheapened her relationship with the man. The agape (love) that should characterize the relationship between a man and woman should never be labeled with a price tag.

There are different perspective of the lobola that is “paid” for a woman in many African marriages. For those of the West who are not familiar with this historical practice that is commonly practiced out among many Africa tribes, lobola is the “price of a bride.” A young suitor who would marry a particular young maiden must pay lobola to the father of the bride, which is usually several cows. The number of cows is determined when the relatives of the young man negotiate with the father of the bride.

The practice of lobola has been judged by the West to be somewhat questionable because the West thinks the opposite in reference to preparation for the marriage of a young man to a woman. In the West, it is the desire of the parents to make sure that the young couple are financially secure in order to begin their marriage. They do not seek to “impoverish” the couple from the beginning of the marriage by demanding “payment” by the future breadwinner at the very beginning of the marriage. But the West often misunderstands the lobola of African cultures.

It is true that some African fathers of brides are trying to get gain out of their daughters in demanding, for example, ten cows, when a young man can give only five. But we must not overlook how the young man should view his love for the young maiden whom he would web. The lobola is his expression of love. If the father of the young maiden asked for ten cows, and the young man was willing to give only one, then the young maiden would think, “Am I not worth more to you than one cow?” The giving of one cow would be an embarrassment to her worth as a woman and wife.

What is often not understood in reference to lobola is that regardless of how many cows the hopeful young man might give to the father of the bride, he will eventually inherit the father’s herd.   The father of the bride is simply making sure that the young man builds up his inheritance, not leaving his daughter to live a poverty-stricken life with someone who has no ability to raise a herd of cows and provide for his grandchildren. Would this not also be the desire of a father of the West to see in the young man who would marry his daughter?

In the West, provision is made by the fathers at the beginning of the marriage in order to encourage the financial success of the young man. In Africa the fathers are trying to guarantee provision for their children at the end of their marriage. It depends on whether one is viewing the financial security of the marriage at the beginning or at the end when the couple are in their old age.

And then consider the fact that the emotional energy that is needed to continue a successful marriage actually depends more on the man than the woman. Luscombe wrote,

“One of the more controversial ideas therapists are now suggesting is that men need to do more of the “emotional labor” in a relationship—the work that goes into sustaining love, which usually falls to women’ (Time Magazine, ibid).

Drs. John and Julie Gottman published the result of forty years of research in their book entitled, A Man’s Guide to Women.   They essentially concluded that husbands must “man up” to their responsibility of being the primary sustainer in the emotional bond between a husband and wife. They wrote,

What men do in a relationship is, by a large margin, the crucial factor that separates a great relationship from a failed one. This doesn’t mean that a woman doesn’t need to do her part, but the data proves that a man’s actions are the key variable that determines whether a relationship succeeds or fails (quoted by Time Magazine, ibid).

We would conclude that the science of human behavior is now discovering the biblical meaning of the husband as the head in marital relationships. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us that the man is wired to be the spiritual and emotional head (leader) in the marriage. However, headship is more about emotional and spiritual leadership than authority and rule. It is for this reason that women are always attracted to a man, who to the best of his ability, seeks to be in tune with the emotional needs of a woman. If a husband seeks truly to be the head, then he will sensitize his feelings to be in tune with the emotional needs of his wife.   We do not know of any woman who would refuse to having her emotional needs lovingly nurtured.

Before marriage, a young man must examine whether he is about to emotionally lead the young maiden with whom he would be partner for life. His commitment emotionally service a woman in marriage is not something to be taken lightly. How this commitment is made in a particular culture is based on how a commitment is made. When a commitment is made with more than words, as with lobola, the commitment is sincere. If a young African man does not keep his commitment, he will not get his cows back.   We must never consider lightly the commitment that two make to one another in the bond (not bondage) of marriage.   Think of the commitment in this way: The husband commits himself to be sensitive to the emotional needs of his wife.   The wife in turn commits to submitting herself to his loving emotional sensitivity.

Someone once said, “Being someone’s first love may be great, but to be their last is beyond perfect.” It is always good to dream for the perfect love in marriage.   However, it is always an impossible dream. It is impossible simply because we are human, and humans have a habit of failing. Therefore, it is not that a married couple never becomes angry with one another, or even irritated. The beauty of agape (love) is not in the problem of how quickly we might become angry with one another, but in how quickly we can resolve our anger and make up.

We must always keep in mind that a young man or woman will never find that perfect person to marry. The perfect mate does not exist. One should seek to find the imperfect person whom they see perfectly through love, just as God sees us perfect through the blood of Christ.   When one discovers the perfect person through love, then it is determined that that person is truly worth fighting for. The love of one’s life is always worth “ten cows.” Some church bulletin contained the following statement that young people might do well to memorize when looking for a lifetime partner:

Perfect love

Slow to suspect … quick to trust,

Slow to condemn … quick to justify,

Slow to offend … quick to defend,

Slow to expose … quick to shield,

Slow to reprimand … quick to shield,

Slow to belittle … quick to appreciate,

Slow to demand … quick to give,

Slow to provoke … quick to conciliate,

Slow to hinder … quick to help.

Slow to resent … quick to forgive.

When in a time of confrontation, a married couple would do well to remember the following words that they uttered to one another many years before:

For as much as these two have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their oath each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are husband and wife, and what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

 

[Next lecture: September 5]

 

 

 

Love As Strong As Death, Part 2

B.  “For love is as strong as death.”

As sure as death will claim its victims (Hb 9:27), so will love claim success is a marriage. There are always times of disagreement in a marriage relationship.   There are no perfect marriages.   Sometimes arguments can become heated.   But there is nothing greater to cool a heated argument than the words, “I love you, dear.” Death will certainly claim every human being.   However, love will also claim its “victims,” for hard is the person who will not respond to unconditional love.

When in times of trying disagreements between a husband and wife, it would be good for both parties to remember the following words that were once spoken to them years before when they were joined in marriage for life:

Wilt thou have this partner to be thy wedded wife (or, husband), to live together after God’s law in the holy estate of marriage? Wilt thou love her (or, him), comfort, honor, and keep her (or, him) in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep give thyself only unto her (or him), so long as you both shall life?

After remembering the statement, gaze upon the rings of the covenant that were exchanged with an “I do” as the response to the above statement. It is then that we realize that love is as strong as death.

In writing a book on relationships, C. H. Parkhurst wrote a chapter in his book entitled, “Love is a Lubricant.” He tells the story of a trolley car workman who always carried a can of oil in his pocket. When asked why, the workman replied, “I must always carry a can of oil in my pocket, for there are so many things that a drop of oil will correct.”   In a successful marriage, we have always noticed an “oil can” in the pocket of each marriage partner. The oil can continued a mixture of love, patience and forgiveness.

C.  “Many waters cannot quench love”:

Some translations of this verse read that flood waters cannot drown love. True love between a husband and wife cannot be smothered by trials that occasionally come along in a lifetime relationship. In fact, a couple cannot determine if they have a true love for one another until it is tested with disagreements. And the married couple who says that they never had a disagreement, are not being truthful. We are human, and humans disagree. We are not all of the same mind as cloned individuals. Marriage is not a cloning process where either partner relinquishes his or her right to think to his or her partner.

Disagreements often come to light after the first few months of marriage. Once the passion of a sexual relationship cools, thinking, not passion, establishes a firm relationship. Disagreements subsequently separate passion from true agape (love). Once the honeymoon is over, it is then that the couple discovers their true love for one another. They know that they will both be there for one another. At the time of the marriage ceremony the two were pronounced to be one, but it takes the trails of marriage to fully understand their oneness. When both parties, who have established themselves as one in marriage, understand that neither are going anywhere during any heated disagreement, then the concrete of the marriage has set in.

We use the word “partners” in reference to marriage. However, we use the word with God’s definition of how two work together as one in a marriage relationship.   There is a final decision-making process in a successful relationship, as well as mutual respect for one another when this God-ordain decision-making process is obeyed. When couples in marriage seek to work outside the realm of God’s definition of the function of each partner in marriage, then the “partnership” is dysfunctional. When married couples adopt the thinking of the world in reference to partnerships, then we must expect worldly results in marriage, which often means that someone is “fired” from the cooperate board.

One of our Millennial Generation friends in America once asked us why it was so difficult for him to find a marriage partner.   He was of a generation where single women were brought up to be professionals in the business world.   They were trained “to be their own woman,” to think for themselves, and thus see marriage as a cooperate partnership that is defined according to the business world in which they would work professionally. There is nothing wrong with women being educated and successful in life. In fact, a healthy relationship in a marriage depends much on a husband who encourages his wife to be the best she can be with the gifts with which God has empowered her to serve as a disciple of Jesus.   A husband who is intimidated with a wife who is very gifted must work on his own self-esteem. And working on one’s self-esteem does not mean that a woman is to be subjected in a manner by which she cannot exercise her gifts to the glory of God.

Unfortunately, the Millennial Generation is what many sociologists have called the “Me Generation,” that is, the generation that has been given everything, and thus, is trained with an abundance of toys and play things from childhood. The result is a generation that has been taught to think of themselves first and expect everything from others. Our young Millennial male was finding it difficult to find a lifetime mate among women of his generation whose principles for marriage were according to biblical principles.

Our young friend had a great respect for the relationship that existed between his own father and mother, but unfortunately, his father and mother were married on the foundation of sound biblical principles.   Our young friend had not yet found one of his own generation who manifested the biblically defined relationship that his father and mother had with one another.

We answered the question of our young friend that it is difficult for two “me” people to come together and make an “us” relationship. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will be one flesh (Ep 5:31).

The biblical principle of the preceding mandate of the Spirit was that the young man must to some extent disengage from his father and mother in order to have a healthy engagement with his wife. The reason this is necessary is that a young man must be committed to his wife. He must trust her knowledge and wisdom in decision-making. It is not the function of one’s parents to be making decisions in the marriage of their children.

Since the mandate of Ephesians 5:31 was made two thousand years ago, we assume that it has always been difficult for two young people to come together to form a marriage that is based on biblical principles.

The struggle our young friend was having is two-sided. He, as a “me” generation, had to give up some of his “me” in order to give himself in love to another “me” generation person, who also had to give up some of her “me” in order to submit to him as the head in a marriage relationship. Marriage is always “give and take.” But when both partners are trained from childhood to always take, then it is difficult for either partner to have enough to give. And in many cases when two “takers” come together in marriage, it is sometimes difficult for both to be satisfied with what the other has to offer.

In a love-submission relationship, there is always sharing, consideration, discussion, cooperation, giving and taking.   A biblically conducted marital relationship has all these qualities simply because these are the qualities of a true disciple of Jesus. Christian marriage must always be defined in a manner by which each partner is encouraged to be a better disciple of Jesus.

[Next Lecture: Tomorrow, September 3]

Love As Strong As Death, Part 1

 

In the early years,

you fight because you

don’t understand each other.

In the latter years,

you fight because you do.

(Joan Didion)

But Mark Twain was right when he said, “To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.”

That which is most precious in one’s old age is that the one seated in the chair next to you is the love of one’s youth with whom you have grown old together. Throughout all the disagreements, the aged couple can find solace in the fact that they have endured to the time when both can experience the satisfaction that they made it together to the chairs in which they sit side by side in their old age. It is a surreal experience that aged couples can never in words explain to their children.   It is something only the children can understand fully only when they too get there themselves. It is for this reason that it goes without saying that Christians should marry Christians.

In his book, 30 Lessons for Loving, that resulted from a survey of 700 elderly people, Karl Pillemer concluded,

“Couples who have made it all the way later into life have found it to be a peak experience, a sublime experience to be together” (Time Magazine, June 13, 2016).

Pillemer also added, “But all of them [aged couples] also either said that marriage is hard, or that it’s really, really hard” (Ibid). Belinda Luscombe stated that to get to the end of a lifetime of marriage, it takes focus on the end result.

“Marriage has become what game theorists call ‘a commitment device,’ an undertaking that locks individuals into a course of action they might find dreary and inconvenient on occasion in order to help them achieve a worthwhile bonus later on. And in an era when it’s both harder and less necessary to stay together, the trick is figuring out how to go the distance so you can reap the surprisingly rich rewards” (Time Magazine, ibid).

In many ways, Paul certainly had more in mind than financial relationships, or relationships with those who would compromise one’s faith, when he said, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Co 6:14). Any relationship that a believer has with an unbeliever brings the believer into a contract with what could lead to the compromise of the believer’s faith.

When making a decision to make a contract of marriage for life, young people must seriously consider with whom they are signing on the dotted line on the marriage license. It is the love of one’s youth that must be remembered throughout a lifetime partnership in marriage. It is this affectionate love that Solomon sought to reveal to us in his loving relationship with the Shulamite woman. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful emotional ballet between King Solomon and a woman who had captured his sincere devotion. In the last verses of the poetic play, the Shulamite responded with her devotion to the king. Her words should be upon the lips of all those who would seek to grow old together in matrimony (See Ss 8:6,7).

  1. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.”

The signet (seal) in ancient times was worn as an identity by the one to whom someone had given his or her allegiance.   It was usually worn around the neck, and thus, close to one’s heart. The Shulamite maiden wanted to be as close as possible to the heart of Solomon, and thus treasured by him. She wanted the signet of her devotion to him to be with him at all times.

The devotion of two people to one another is revealed in the New Testament in reference to the responsibilities that two people must have to one another in marriage. The best counsel for successful marital relationships was given by the Holy Spirit in two statements: (1) Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as it is fitting to the Lord” (Cl 3:18), and (2) “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh toward them” (Cl 3:19). In submission there is mutual respect between two parties. It is the husband’s love for his wife that draws devotion out of his wife.   Regardless of the submission of the wife, true agape (love) is still showered on the wife. Agape (love) has no conditions. It is never a bargaining chip to be offered for a return.   Submission and love in marriage define a mutual relationship. It is never a “I-will-if-you-will” interaction between a husband and wife.

When God’s relationship directives for marital relationships are violated, marriages will suffer, and eventually, society as a whole will reap the consequences. We must never forget that we are the creative product of our Creator, and thus, we must always assume that He made both man and woman to dwell in a harmonious relationship in marriage according to His emotional blueprint that is embedded within men and women. When society seeks to change the blueprint, then expect problems. When society seeks to rewire what God initially wired, then we can expect several social short circuits.

There is an extent to which both a husband and wife should maintain their roles as mates in marriage. As a wife would submit to the Lord, so she must submit to her husband (Ep 5:22). “Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything (Ep 5:24). There is also an extent to which the husband must love his wife. “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies (Ep 5:28).

When a woman sets the seal of her love on a man’s heart, the natural response of the man is love for the woman. When the husband takes the initiative to love and cherish his wife, submission becomes as a natural response. The Holy Spirit never gave any instructions in the marriage relationship that were not natural according to the emotional design by which we were created.

[Next Lectures: Tomorrow, September 2]

Learning To Love Again

We have just enough religion

to make us hate one another,

but not enough to make us

love one another.

(Jonathan Swift)

A young teenager who thought he was in love with a fair maiden defined love: “Love is the feeling that flatters your ego while it flattens your wallet.” And then there was the weary housewife who had labored all day in cooking, cleaning and caring for a family. She had here own definition of love: “Love is a mental disorder that makes a girl eager to give up eight hours in an office to slave fourteen hours all day in a house.”

Anyone who has come to the age of accountability recognizes that we must grow in our understanding of love in all relationships of life. We struggle to learn the “second mile” love about which Jesus spoke (See Mt 5:38-47). We yearn for that love that was defined by Peter De Vries: “Loves blindness consists more often in seeing what is not there than in seeing what is there.” It is this love that is an emotional attitude that is not defined by the object upon which it is applied. It is as some poet once wrote:

It’s silence when your words would hurt.

It’s patience when your neighbor’s curt.

It’s deafness when the scandal flows.

It’s thoughtfulness for another’s woes.

It’s promptness when stern duty calls.

It’s courage when misfortune falls.

In modern times we have moved into a world where too many marriages end in divorce. We thus yearn to discover again that lost love that once bound marriages together until death. And in a chaotic world of dysfunctional societies, we long for a restoration of the divine principle that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Sane minds ache because we live in a world, that in the name of religion, foolish people feel justified to load a gun and kill innocent people on the street. Some feel compelled to execute those who do not conform to the god they have created after their own political agendas. We are thus driven in desperation to discover an emotional and spiritual loving relationship within humanity that is so necessary for survival in a mad world.

Just to refresh our minds, we remember what he conquering military French military leader, Napoleon, once said,

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself founded empires, but upon what did we rest the creation of our genius?   Upon force. Jesus alone founded his empire on love, and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

It is this love and devotion to our Lord Jesus that we seek to discover and implement in our lives as citizens of the world. Many years ago, Dr. Rene Spitz once surveyed an orphanage that was established in a South American city.   It was his conclusion that one third of the babies who died in the orphanage did so because they received only one tenth of a mother’s love. The intolerance that we witness in our own world today can only be explained by citizens who have experienced little love in the homes from which they came. It is this love that Christian parents yearn to instill in the hearts of their children before they are sent as citizens into society. The chaos we experience in many societies today reveals that families are doing a very poor job of developing homes that produce citizens who love their neighbors as themselves.

So we yearn for the atmosphere of love that was poetically defined by Helen Stiener Rice:

 

Where there is love the heart is light.

Where there is love the day is bright.

Where there is love there is a song,

To help when things are going wrong.

Where there is love there is a smile,

To make all things seem more worthwhile.

Where there is love there’s quiet piece,

A tranquil place where turmoils cease.

Love changes darkness to light,

And makes the heart take wingless flight.

Oh, blessed are they who walk in love,

For they walk with God above.

And when man walks with God again,

There will be peace on earth for men.

[Next lecture: September 1]

 

Agape (love)

This is the love that Paul defines in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the love that is defined by God’s love for us (Jn 3:16), love that reached out while we were yet in our sins. It is unconditional love.   Paul defines this love in the statement of Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is unmerited love by which God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3:16). In other words, this is the outpouring of love upon those who do not deserve to be loved. It is the love of God that is defined by the incarnation of the Son of God (See Ph 2:5-11).   It was this action of God toward mankind that overwhelmed the apostle John: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1). This is not as the love of a young man who said on the telephone to his young lady friend, “My love for you is higher than the tallest mountain. It is deeper than the deepest ocean, and wider than the widest river.   And I will be over tonight if it does not rain.”

Agape (love) gives when it is not given to.   It is love that loves when not loved.   It is sacrificial even when no sacrifices are given in response. It works, but does not expect to be noticed. It gives, but does not expect to be given to. It always forgives before even being asked to forgive. It is the love that follows the instructions of Jesus, “But I say to you, love [agape] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). The psalmist explained, “Hatred stirs up strifes, but love covers all sins” (Pv 10:12). “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Pv 17:9). “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fattened ox with hatred” (Pv 15:17). And the Holy Spirit was right when He said through Solomon in explaining the loving devotion that should exist in marriage, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm. For love is as strong as death (Ss 8:6).

One of the interesting contexts where the words agape and phileo are used in the New Testament in a comparative manner is when Jesus called on Peter’s commitment after he had denied Him three times. “Simon, son of John, do you truly love [agape] Me more than these?” (Jn 21:15). Peter responded with the word phileo. “Yes, Lord, You know that I love [phileo] You” (Jn 21:15). But Jesus again asked, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love [agape] Me?” (Jn 21:16). Again Peter responded, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love [phileo] You” (Jn 21:16). And then a third time Jesus asked the question using Peter’s word phileo. “Simon, son of John, do you love [phileo] Me?” (Jn 21:17). It was when Jesus used the friendship word for love (phileo) that Peter was using that Peter got the point. “Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time” (Jn 21:17). He was grieved because he had denied Jesus three times. His denials were based on a phileo relationship, not an agape (love) relationship. Agape (love) would never have denied Jesus. This would be the love by which Peter would later love in order to be martyred for Jesus. When Peter would be old, Jesus said to him, “You will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). It would be then that Peter would understand that he had grown to the love of agape where he was willing to die for Jesus.

Agape (love) is the mortar that holds the bricks together. It is the love that holds disciples one to another. It is the love that flows from one to another. When a magnet is left clinging to a piece of iron, the iron eventually becomes magnetized. When loving Christians hold close to one another, their love grows. Any relational function of the body of Christ, therefore, that does not keep each member close to other members, is dysfunctional. It is not a natural fellowship that is based on the extent of love by which the disciples of Jesus are to be identified.   We wonder if this was not the problem among the Ephesian Christians when Jesus said that they had lost their first love (agape)? (Rv 2:4). John concluded,

And now I urge you, lady, not as though writing a new commandment to you, but what we had from the beginning, that we love [agape] one another (2 Jn 5).

[Next lecture: August 30]

 

Football Team Love

 

As long as one cooperates with the team and manifests the right attitude, he is on the football team. He can play ball with the rest of the team because he has a relationship with the other players. However, if a particular team member starts acting out of place, or is not playing in cooperation with the team, then he is kicked off the team. We throw off the team those who do not play fair, or those who do not have a cooperative relationship with all the team members.

The Greek word phileo is used in the New Testament. This is the friendship love. It is the love that focuses on one’s affectionate relationship with someone or some thing. It would be the friendship that is maintained as long as everything goes according to the conditions that determine a friendship relationship. Michal “loved” David as long as everything went according to the rules of friendship. However, when David behaved contrary to what she believed was appropriate behavior, she no longer “loved” him (See 2 Sm 6:20-23). She kicked him off her friendship team.

If this word were used in reference to the love that existed within a marital relationship, then the marriage would not last long. Everything in the marriage relationship would go fine until one partner did something that was contrary to the rules of the marriage game. When disagreements arose in the marriage, one partner would want to kick the other off the marriage team.

There can also be phileo relationships among members of the body. However, if the disciples’ love for one another does not go beyond friendship, it might happen that in a time of disagreement one disciple might offend another, and then, kick the other disciple “out of the church.” And then there is the preacher. He is a good man of God as long as he is a team member and does not preach any lessons that might offend any of the members. But if he preaches something that offends a member, then the offended member, who has only a phileo relationship with the church, will often kick himself off the team.

 Phileo is used in the New Testament to explain many different relational scenarios. The hypocrites “love [phileo] to pray standing in the synagogues …” (Mt 6:5). “He who loves [phileo] father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:37). “Beware of the scribes who … love [phileo] greetings in the markets” (Lk 20:46).

One’s association with another in Christ begins with a phileo relationship. But when one grows in Christ, the phileo relationship with other disciples must always progress to an agape relationship. It is the agape relationship that defines the relational nature of the body of Christ (Jn 13:34,35).

[Next Lecture: August 28]